Guest Commentary

A look at the brighter side of mixed-species creations

Environmental activist Jeremy Rifkin, along with his pal Stuart Newman, are such party poopers. According to articles in the Guardian, Christian Science Monitor and USA Today, they don't like chimeras. In fact, they dislike chimeras so much, they recently applied for a patent on a human/chimpanzee. They imagine that by getting turned down, they'll block other guys from getting one.

Chimera research is cutting-edge biotechnology, and some people are pretty excited about this actual fusing of DNA from different species to grow new animals. This is not crossbreeding--mules are a cross between a horse and a donkey and have been around for centuries. No, Rifkin and Newman are upset about the actual fusing of separate genetic materials to form, for example, "geeps." A geep has already been made in Scotland by mixing a goat with a sheep. In the United States, scientists have grown human brain cells in mouse heads. A guy at Stanford says it's possible to produce mice whose brains are 100 percent human DNA.

This species fusing could be done with a human and a chimpanzee. We already share more DNA than a sheep does with a goat.

It all sounds horrific and leads to appalling scenarios like the pig-bodied guy in the movie O Lucky Man, but c'mon. Sure, the thought of a guy with the brains of a human being and the strength of an adult male chimpanzee coming after your SUV should you fail to make a few payments might be frightening, but look on the bright side. There always is bright side, they tell me, and technology always marches on. It be a marching-on bastard for sure. Hup two three four all the way to heaven or hell, depending on which way you point it.

So you're shaking your head thinking holy fudd! How can there possibly be a bright side to this one? Well, I can think of many just in the area of parenting. There are dozens of others, of course.

Chimeras will finally turn parenting from the absolutely baffling experience it is into the fulfilling experience it's supposed to be. In some places, there's already a big kerfluffle about being able to choose the sex of your child: Apparently, when left with a choice, most people choose boys. But the addition of the chimera factor means not only will you be able to choose the sex of your kid, but the kind of kid you have. No longer will a wannabe sports dad be faced with the possibility of a son who wants to be a poet or a dancer. He can finally have that future NBA center he's always dreamed of. Just add a little cheetah, maybe a little mule for strength and stamina. Of course, he might have to live with the fact that junior has the uncontrollable urge to spray urine on the walls, or kicks like hell when he doesn't want to do his homework, but what the heck? Everything's got risks.

Or suppose someone's house is small, and this fact is preventing them from starting a family. Well, what about adding a little buffalo DNA to junior's embryo? This could result in a kid with a thick coat to keep him warm, and he can live outside. Voila! Mom and Dad are saved the expense of adding another room to the house. Is that swift, or what?

Why, the possibilities are endless. A little cow DNA, and that surly teenager will no longer argue about mowing the lawn. In fact, he'll look forward to it. Or rat DNA. If the wiring inside the wall gets frayed, you just send junior inside to fix it. No more electricians' bills. Of course, you'd never be able to know whether he was the one who chewed it in the first place, but that would come down to good parenting, I think. If you're going to raise a rat-child, part of his initial training would to forbid crawling behind the wall and chewing the electrical cables, no matter how much fun it is.

People like Jeremy Rifkin can freak out all they want to, but then I guess they're just steeped in negativity. I mean, loads of people screamed about the atom bomb, too. And look at how much fun that turned out to be.

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